The Town Council on Wednesday, Oct. 19, voted to approve a budget amendment to hire two new police traffic officer positions, despite the rejection of a grant application for state funds to cover the cost.
The council also approved a budget amendment that increased revenues from insurance proceeds for damage to a fire engine and a sign and to remove funding for a federal fire grant that the town did not get.
The vote was 3-0 with council members Mike Chalk and Randy Young absent.
The town had applied for more than $240,000 in Governor’s Crime Commission grants to fund the two traffic officer positions for a year, including vehicles and other equipment. It currently only has one traffic officer.
The council voted to pull $166,414 from the town’s unappropriated fund balance to pay for the hires. The amount is less than the $246,529 the grant would have included for a year’s salary and benefits for the two officers, police Chief Lawrence Capps said, because it has been prorated to reflect that the officers will not be hired until halfway through this fiscal year that began July 1.
Capps said the positions would probably not be filled until early next calendar year, in part because of the time needed to conduct background checks and in part because of the need to coordinate the hires with the police academy.
The cause got an assist when the Fire Department received a $343,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to hire three new firefighters, an expense the council had budgeted for this fiscal year regardless of whether the grant came through. “Had they not gotten that grant from FEMA,” Capps said, “I don’t know that we’d be looking at this situation.”
Capps said traffic enforcement has been an increasing concern for the town as it grows. “Adding some additional traffic officers was an extremely wise move,” he said.
The fire grant that the town did not receive, from FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, would have paid for some communication items, including handheld radios, Capps said, and without the grant the department will simply be going without that equipment.
The damage to the fire engine and sign totaled $7,477, which was covered by insurance. Capps said the engine hooked up to a hydrant with a contaminated water line and rock and debris ended up going through the pump and damaging it. The repairs have already been made.
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826